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Speaking Tree

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30th June, 2005

What is T'ai Chi?

T'ai Chi is an art in which you develop at your own pace regardless of your age or physical ability. T'ai Chi's universal appeal lies in its ability to improve greatly the lives of people of different ages and occupations.

However, learning T'ai Chi is not "effortless" as it is sometimes portrayed and it requires much diligence, patience and an ability to withstand discouragement before one can reap bountiful rewards. T'ai Chi can also be very beneficial for people with physical or mental disabilities.
Benefits include improved balance, coordination, and reflexes; tranquillity, patience, concentration, self-awareness; stronger bones, muscles and organs. In T'ai Chi there is no "final result". Rather, there is a gradual accumulation of benefits that compound like savings in a high-interest account.

What is the significance of the yin and yang symbol?

Everything in the world has a complementary opposite. The yin-yang symbol reminds you that life is made up of opposites and that life is a continuous cycle of these opposites. Good times follow bad, sunshine follows rain and smile follows tears.

So when times are good, you cherish them, partly because of their impermanence. And when times are bad, you don't worry too much, because you know that they can't last forever.

How does T'ai Chi differ from Yoga?

T'ai Chi and Yoga are sister disciplines; they share common roots dating back to pre-history. Both can help you understand the mysteries of Chi, realise spiritual potential, and become healthy and strong. They emphasise stretching, body alignments, breath work, and Chi energy, called prana in Yoga. Only their training methods are different while Yoga is all about control, T'ai Chi is about letting go and flow. The joints are never fully bent, straightened, or locked while doing T'ai Chi movements whereas many Yoga postures fully bend, straighten, or lock the joints.

In general, T'ai Chi uses less extreme degrees of stretching that are more like normal body movements, in comparison with Yoga, which include extreme stretches, such as full splits or crossing both feet behind the head. T'ai Chi is also a fully developed martial art. Put simply, in T'ai Chi you relax to stretch; in Yoga, you stretch to relax.